by John Threlfall | Aug 28, 2014 | Alumni, Events, Faculty, Theatre, Writing
There’s nothing funny about being a writer—although a good writer can make anything seem funny. Just ask Mark Leiren-Young.
Mark Leiren-Young is the latest Southam Lecturer
An award-winning author, journalist, playwright, screenwriter and University of Victoria alumnus, Leiren-Young will be focusing on humour writing in his role as the UVic’s 2014 Harvey Stevenson Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction. As the first UVic alumnus to hold the Southam position, he will also be teaching in the very Department of Writing from which he graduated—With Distinction—in 1985.
”I’m honoured and thrilled to be returning to UVic,” says Leiren-Young. “Several friends I’m still in touch with from my UVic days have responded to the news by bursting into the theme song from Welcome Back Kotter.”
Leiren-Young is the author of two comic memoirs, Free Magic Secrets Revealed and Never Shoot A Stampede Queen: A Rookie Reporter in the Cariboo. In addition to two other nonfiction books and a number of plays which have been produced throughout North America, Europe and Australia, the Vancouver-based Leiren-Young is also a well-known satirist, half of the comedy duo Local Anxiety and the writer/director of the film The Green Chain. As a journalist, he has written for TIME, Maclean’s, The Hollywood Reporter, Utne Reader and most of Canada’s daily newspapers, and is a regular contributor to The Vancouver Sun, TheTyee, The Georgia Straight and The Walrus. He has also written over a hundred hours of television dramas, documentaries and animated shows.
His biggest success, however, may well be Never Shoot A Stampede Queen, which won the 2009 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. A memoir of his first year working as a journalist at the Williams Lake Tribune, Stampede Queen is being adapted for both film and television and has had two stage productions so far—one of which starred Zachary Stevenson and was directed by TJ Dawe, both fellow UVic Fine Arts alumni. “Stampede Queen pretty much kicks off with me leaving UVic and getting my BFA—recognized in better restaurants worldwide as a ‘waiter’s degree’,” Leiren-Young quips.
His humour-writing course and upcoming public lecture—You Can’t Say That! Comedy, Censorship & Sensitivity—will incorporate not only his own experiences, but also a critical examination of what is funny in the 21st century. Don’t miss Leiren-Young’s free lecture from 6:30-8:30pm Wednesday, Oct 15, in room A240 of UVic’s Human & Social Development building.
“It’s a fascinating time to talk about humour, comedy and media,” say Leiren-Young. “We’re living in an age where some comedians are taking facts more seriously than some journalists. When surveys used to report that young people were getting their news from late-night comedy, the implication was that this was a bad thing; today it means they’re better informed than people watching cable news. Comedians know how to deliver a punchline, but we may be laughing at the wrong media figures.”
Leiren-Young is the eighth person to hold the prestigious Southam lectureship, following freelance journalist Tom Hawthorn, Jo-Ann Roberts (CBC’s All Points West), Charles Campbell (Georgia Straight), Sandra Martin (Globe and Mail), Jody Paterson (Times Colonist) and authors Richard Wagamese and Terry Glavin.
The annual Harvey Stevenson Southam lectureship is made possible by a significant gift from one of the country’s leading publishing families. Harvey Southam, a UVic alumnus and journalist, was heir to his family’s publishing empire when he died suddenly in 1991.
by John Threlfall | Aug 21, 2014 | Alumni, Events, Theatre, Undergraduate, Writing
It seems with each passing year, more and more Phoenix Theatre students and alumni are showing up in the annual Victoria Fringe Festival—and this year’s no different. For those who want to bat for the home team, here’s a quick list to those Phoenixers who are acting, writing, directing, designing or managing backstage at the Fringe.
Remember, these are only shows featuring Phoenix students or alumni—there are plenty of other great shows in the Fringe well worth checking out!
High Wire Theatre
Directed by Joanne James, featuring Nikki Bell, Stage Manager Meaghan Danforth
A one-woman show written by Canadian playwright Kristen Thomson, I, Claudia explores the world of a 12 year old girl struggling through the life of a misfit adolescent. Detailed through the perspective of 4 different characters, including Claudia herself, the script is full of charm, wit, and moments of raw truth outlining the experience of simply “growing up.”
Improv on Trial
Singles Awareness Theatre Company
Written/Created by: Amy Culliford & Blair Moro, featuring Logan Mitev, Hayley McCurdy, Sean Dyer, Markus Spodzieja, Amy Culliford and Blair Moro, with marketing photo by Kate Loomer.
A completely improvised court case in the historic Maritime Museum’s court room. Each night will have a celebrity judge running the court (check the posters around the Fringe to see who our celebrity judges will be).
Kitt & Jane: An Interactive Survival Guide to the Near-Post-Apocalyptic Future
Written/Created by Kathleen Greenfield, Ingrid Hansen with lighting design by Michael Franzmann
From creators of Little Orange Man comes this encore engagement of Kitt & Jane. Two socially-awkward 14-year-olds hijack their school assembly: the apocalypse will occur in five years, and they’re here to train you to survive. A poignant exploration of the world today’s youth are inheriting and what they’re prepared to do about it.
BIG SANDWICH PRODUCTIONS
Written/Created by: TJ Dawe
Fringe road dog TJ Dawe (Lucky 9, The Slipknot) returns, with a story about a retreat led by Dr. Gabor Mate, involving the shamanic plant medicine ayahuasca . . . in Victoria. “Probably the best show he has ever brought us” – Edmonton Sun “Cathartic and never less than fascinating” – Now Magazine, Toronto “5 stars – storytelling at its best” – CBC Manitoba
Rope of Sand
Written/Created by Tristan Bacon (and Alyssa Kostello) featuring Nicholas Yee, Kaeden Derkson, Joanne James, Chase Heibert
Tear gas. Rubber bullets. Revolution. Against the backdrop of Egyptian violence in January 2011, Tracey Stoddard struggles against the age old question of financial security versus following your heart. Fast-paced and dream-like, Rope of Sand takes us on a whirlwind journey from the slick, wet streets of Vancouver to the scorching, arid desert in Egypt.
Written/Created by Molison Farmer, featuring Kaeden Derksen, Kathleen O Reilly. Designed by Chelsea Graham and Halley Fulford. Stage Management and lights by Imogen Wilson (with music by UVIC music student Simon Dawkin)
Meet Tatterhood: a scraggly goat-riding wild child who must use her gumption to save her sweet and angelic sister from a hoard of trolls! Pick of the Fringe winner Kerploding Theatre brings this age-old folk tale to life with puppetry, live original music, and choreography. “The show delighted everyone in the audience… people young and old.” – Martlet
Written/Created by: Andrew Wade
The Hatter is the story of a man trying desperately to get home. (It is also a tea party!) The Hatter has lost his madness, and now he needs your help. Come join in this performance jammed with storytelling, a song, emotional problems, and a chance to be the Jabberwock. With free tea! “4½ stars!” – Saskatoon StarPhoenix
The Princess Rescue Force
NEW BLOOD THEATRE
Written/Created by Robin Gadsby, directed by Kieran Wilson. Design by Chelsea Graham and Simon Farrow. Stage Manager Becca Jorgenson.
Damsels, distress no more. The Princess Rescue Force is here!! Two young recruits set out to earn their tights within this prestigious company of men . . . only to discover that “happily ever after” is hard to find. Dragons have to be slain on the inside; love at first sight makes you question your sexuality; and kissing sleeping beauties is a criminal offense.
The Middle of Everywhere
Written/created by Kate Braidwood (and Andrew Phoenix)
Two strangers. One bus stop. Infinite destinations. WONDERHEADS return with their larger than life masks and a story that bends time and space in a journey of epic proportions! 8-time Best of Fest Winners and creators of Fringe hits Grim & Fischer and Loon: “5 stars—pure magic.” – CBC “5 stars—wonderful, original, beautiful fun.” – Calgary Herald
The New Conformity
Written/Created by: Sean Brossard. Stage Manager Nic Beamish.
The New Conformity is a juggling show displaying contemporary exploration of the ever-evolving conformist trends through juggling. The four-man show entails an entertaining and exciting 45 minutes full of throws, pancakes, rolls, and much more. The story is carefully drawn through the eyes of the characters and their individual reaction to change.
The Rise of Basement Boy
Written/Created Markus Spodzieja (and UVic Writing grad Shane Campbell). Featuring Hayley Mccurdy, Jenson Kerr, Francis Melling and Markus Spodzieja. Lighting design by Erin Osborne. Marketing photo by Kate Loomer.
What happens when a nerdy recluse meets the pizza-girl of his dreams? In this musical comedy Archibald Clarkson must brave the real world for the first time or face losing the game of love before he even presses start. It’s going to be an hour of laugher, lyricism, and live action role-playing.
The Stephen Harper Play
THEATRE THEATRE • VICTORIA
Written/Created by Ian Simms featuring Tyler Fowler, Laura Ramoso, LJ Tressider, Elliot Lupini
Francis Melling, Haley Garnett and Ian Simms. Designs by Shayna Ward and Erin Osborne. Stage Manager Jaymee Sidel.
Ever wonder what Stephen Harper does off-camera? We do . . . but we’ll never find that out, so instead we made this play. The Stephen Harper Play re-imagines the scandals and diplomatic decisions of our Prime Minister with some of the most out-there (literally, in the arctic) explanations ever. A lampoon on the man-in-charge as well as our own political ignorance that begs us to answer the question: how well do we know our leader?
St. Michaels University School • VICTORIA
Directed by Cam Culham
Join in on monstrous mania in this contemporary tongue-in-cheek parody of the horror film genre, especially the Mary Shelley classic itself! This is family friendly fun, filled with plenty of lively show tunes, performed by a dynamic company of local teen performers. A musical retelling of the 1974 film classic!
Peter N’ Chris and the
KINDA OK CORRRAL
PETER N’ CHRIS
ONE NIGHT ONLY!
September 5, 2014
Written/Created and performed by Chris Wilson and Peter Carlone
Phoenix alumni, dynamic comedy duo, Canadian Comedy Award-winners Peter N’ Chris return to Victoria to perform their newest hit show, where they continue to send up pop culture—this time taking on the classic western!
by John Threlfall | Aug 20, 2014 | Alumni, Theatre
Let’s say right off the top that The F Word is not what you think. Not only is the “F” in question actually “friend”, but The F Word itself is a new movie starring Daniel Radcliffe—yep, he of Harry Potter fame.
But the Fine Arts connection? The F Word is actually the brainchild of a pair of Phoenix Theatre alumni—solo performance guru TJ Dawe and now-Hamilton based actor Michael Rinaldi.
While they didn’t write the screenplay for The F Word, it is based on the 2003 play Toothpaste and Cigars co-written by Dawe and Rinaldi. A romantic comedy about unrequited love, Toothpaste and Cigars was first produced as a 15-minute playlet and was later expanded into a full-length play that toured across Canada.
A tale of unrequited love, The F Word follows Wallace (Radcliffe), a med-school dropout who falls for Chantry, an animator played by American actress Zoe Kazan. Upon meeting, the two develop an immediate connection. But because Chantry has a live-in boyfriend, they become best friends instead.
“I thought they were really true to the spirit of the original,” Dawe told Michael Reid of the local Times Colonist newspaper in this article. “For it to be made at all, and as Canadian film, is a miracle.”
“I loved the movie,” said Dawe. “For it to be made at all, and as a Canadian film, is a miracle.”
“I thought they were really true to the spirit of the original,”
– See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/university-of-victoria-grads-play-inspires-hollywood-film-1.1324032#sthash.c98DT5Nq.dpuf
For his part, Rinaldi has kind words for the film’s star, describing Radcliffe in this CBC article as “funny and humble,” saying he’s “perfect” for the role of Wallace—which was originally the part Rinaldi played in Toothpaste and Cigars.
“I had been told…that he’s really self-effacing,” Rinaldi told the CBC. “That’s still my default and that’s how the character was written—to be really self-deprecating and undercutting himself all the time.”
It’s been a 10-year journey for the transformation of Toothpaste and Cigars into The F Word, now directed by Calgary-raised director Michael Dowse, whose credits include the rock & roll mockumentary FUBAR and hilarious DJ lifestyle spoof, It’s All Gone Pete Tong.
Dawes & Rinaldi were approached with a development deal for their script in 2007, which started a bit of a “will it or won’t it” roller coaster ride for the project. In 2008, the script started generating Hollywood buzz with indie-film biggie Fox Searchlight picking it up and, in 2010, enlisting actor Casey Affleck for the lead role. Cue the typical Hollywood scenario, however, as Searchlight dropped Affleck and then pulled out of the project themselves.
Radcliffe and Kazan in The F Word
But then it morphed back into a Canadian project, with Dowse as director and Daniel Radcliffe onboard. “Suddenly, with a star like that, there’s all this interest in distribution,” Rinaldi told CBC. “I guess that’s how it works.”
Beyond their initial work expanding the world of the play with screenwriter Elan Mastai, Rinaldi and Dawes had little creative input on the film project. They did get to visit the set and meet Radcliffe in September 2012, however, before The F Word debuted to strong reviews at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
Now it opens across Canada on Friday, August 22—although it will be opening under a different name in the United States where, surprisingly, having any “F” word seems to be an issue. The film is being called What If? in America.
Here in Victoria, the timing is good for the film’s release—as TJ Dawe is back in town with his most recent 5-star solo show Medicine at the Victoria Fringe Festival. Medicine, a story about a retreat led by Dr. Gabor Mate and involving the shamanic plant medicine ayahuasca, runs August 25 to 31 at Langham Court Theatre.
So, if you’re one of the people who can say “I saw it when it was just Toothpaste and Cigars“, you can have a Dawes double-bill with the movie and his Fringe show.
Interesting side-note: Dawes also directed and dramaturged fellow Fine Arts alumnus Mark Leiren-Young award-winning memoir Never Shoot a Stampede Queen into a solo show starring another Phoenix alum, Zachary Stevenson.
by John Threlfall | Aug 14, 2014 | Faculty, Writing
At some point in all of our lives, we all encounter a teacher who has a huge influence on us—could be the person in elementary school who first introduced us to art, the one in middle school who gave us our first instrument to play, or that unforgettable high school teacher who said yes, you really can make a living as an actor. For many, however, it isn’t until university the distinction between teacher and mentor is fully realized, with that one pivotal prof who opens the door to a wider world and helps us find our place in it. Longtime and much-loved Faculty of Fine Arts instructor Brian Hendricks was just such a teacher, and it is with heavy heart that we acknowledge his passing on August 11 at the age of 57.
The late Brian Hendricks, in a clip from The Beauty of Certainty
A graduate of UVic’s Creative Writing program himself (he won the Petch Prize on his graduation with a BA in 1979), Brian taught at UVic as a Continuing Sessional from 1992 to 2011 for not only the Department of Writing and the Faculty of Fine Arts but also the Department of Germanic & Slavic Studies. His “signature” class was Writing 412 (one Writing staffer noted it was, “absolutely his class”), which offered a rotating looking at different film topics each semester—like Film on the Future or The Mythology of Hollywood—plus influential directors like Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch. One of his most popular courses was Film on the Mythological Journey, which was based on the archetypal work of Joseph Campbell.
Brian at Brick Blair’s wedding
As was noted by Brick Blair on Brian’s own Facebook page where his passing was announced, “Hendricks taught 12,000 students in over 180 courses and 2,000 classes. He marked 20,000 essays, oversaw 100 film festivals, and watched 5,000 other short films and assignments from his students. I was one of those students. He changed the course of my life. He became a friend, and then a brother. He was me, a decade ahead. And now he is gone. The deafening finality of that is ridiculous. I’ve done a little to try to show other people who Brian was, but Brian left himself in each of those 12,000 students. You know who you are are.”
That’s typical of the kind of praise and memories Brian engendered in his students. Do take the time to visit this page to read some of the memories and see some of the pictures that are being posted.
“Hundreds of former students have posted notes of appreciation online for the beloved curly-haired redhead whose passion for philosophy and cinema was matched by his enthusiasm for golf, hockey, photography, skiing, barroom banter and Sophie, his cherished shih-tzu,” wrote Michael Reid of the local Times Colonist newspaper in this memorial piece published on August 15.
Brian had been battling cancer, which was—not surprisingly, given his cinematic passion—being documented on the website The Beauty of Certainty. “I went out to the backyard and took a deep breath and felt this ridiculous sense of peace that I hadn’t felt since I was a child,” he wrote on the site. “From this moment forward, all I had to accomplish out of the seven hundred things that typically come into my mind every day is stay alive. Of course that feeling is illusive. You can’t stay in that zone forever. But, it gave me a sense of being present that does stay with me everyday. And I realized that I was well-armed for this. I had written about the beauty of uncertainty, about how it prepares us to face life in the face of death. I had written about Carl Jung and his statement that most people spend the first half of their lives afraid to live and the second half of their lives afraid to die.”
“Brian was one of the friendliest and most upbeat people you’d ever meet,” says longtime Writing department colleague Bill Gaston. “His students loved him, and many remained his friends. Like so many Canadian artists, he was also a regular guy. We’d bump into each other and talk hockey, beer, and our kids. Then guffaw about some weird Polish film we’d both seen. Here at UVic his presence is greatly missed.”
“Brian had a generous spirit with his students and always maintained an innocent exuberance about creativity, his own and others’,” agrees Lynne Van Luven, Acting Dean of Fine Arts and another longtime departmental colleague.
Brian with Dallas and Dylan Hendricks
News of Brian’s passing coincided with the death of Robin Williams, prompting this article by former student Feet Banks on the Whistler Pique website. “Another film legend left us this week, albeit a much lesser known one,” writes Banks. “University of Victoria writing and film professor Brian Hendricks succumbed to cancer after a remarkable career . . . A film theory master who lectured on everything from pre-Perestroika Russian cinema to the cultural genius of the Coen Brothers, Hendricks was also an early champion of digital filmmaking.” Among his former students, Banks notes, are the likes of “Dave Mossop and the masterful crew at Sherpas Cinema, gonzo journalist Mikey Nixon, and Shawn Dogimont—the Whistler kid who started the internationally acclaimed Hobo Magazine under Brian’s mentorship.” (In 2002, Brian was appointed Senior Editor of Hobo, a Vancouver-based travel, culture, and literary publication.)
Banks continues: “Other students from his classes created their own publishing houses or wrote novels that got shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. And that was the thing about Brian Hendricks — he explained the fundamentals and helped sharpen the tools, but his greatest lesson was always ‘Follow your Bliss.’ He will be missed, remembered and championed for years by all who knew him but his legacy lives on and continues to create masterpieces.”
Brian wrote many scripts for film, television and corporate, businesses, as well as government videos. He worked as a freelance screenwriter, script consultant and editor, film judge, and critic.
A familiar scene for former students: Brian in his creativity-crammed office
You can get a sense of his style in this video posted by former student Sally Jane Davidson. Titled “A Lesson in Following Your Bliss,” it features interviews with Brian, many students and some great footage from one of his classes.
Brian, you will be missed but your legacy will continue to inspire former students and colleagues alike.
by John Threlfall | Aug 13, 2014 | Faculty, Theatre
Much like the birds she loves to photograph, Dean of Fine Arts Dr. Sarah Blackstone has flown the nest, thanks to her new appointment as Acting Associate Vice-President Academic Planning. Effective August 15, Dean Blackstone will be stepping up to fill the shoes of Dr. Katy Mateer, who is currently off on a medical leave. Not surprisingly, Dr. Lynne Van Luven will take over as Acting Dean of Fine Arts beginning September 1.
Dean Blackstone greeting new students in 2013
“Sarah will no doubt be a strong addition to the Office of the Vice President Academic and Provost given her substantial experience as Dean of Fine Arts and her engagement across the university,” says Dr. Valerie Kuehne, Acting Vice-President Academic and Provost.
Blackstone’s position as AVPAP will run to November 15, 2014, by which time it is hoped that Mateer will be able to return to her position in some capacity. Upon her return, Blackstone will take on a new role as Advisor to the Provost on Special Projects until June 30, 2015—the same date when Van Luven’s role as Acting Dean is scheduled to end.
In regard to her Provost position, Kuehne says, “Sarah’s priority . . . will be to provide leadership to our Enhanced Planning process, currently well underway. I am confident that with Sarah’s ongoing guidance and the excellent committee structures already in place, progress on this important initiative will continue in a timely way.”
Lynne Van Luven
As the former Associate Dean of Fine Arts, Van Luven is no stranger to the Dean’s office, having filled in as Acting Dean during Blackstone’s recent administrative leave. Describing Van Luven as “a recognized scholar and educator, with substantial administrative and professional experience,” Kuehne praises her as a “strong leader and advocate for the Faculty . . . I am very grateful to her for once again taking on this important leadership role.”
While Blackstone will no doubt be incredibly busy with her new positions, we’re sure she’ll also be keeping a sharp eye on Fine Arts—and will no doubt be present at various committee meetings where the AVPAP would normally be present.
“I am sorry to cause disruption in the Faculty, but I believe I have the needed skills and knowledge to help the University through a difficult period and I am excited to take on the challenges of this new post,” Blackstone said in a recent note to Fine Arts faculty and staff. “I am confident that the Faculty is strong and will weather this change very well. I very much appreciate the support you have given me through the years and I will continue to advocate for the arts in my new role.”
We wish Dean Blackstone all the best in her challenging new position, and look forward to seeing her at Fine Arts events throughout the year!